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LTER Key Research Findings

Among the many research results from LTER sites, some findings stand out as being particularly important to achieve the LTER goal of providing information to conserve, protect, and manage the nation's ecosystems. Short descriptions of key findings at each site emphasize the importance of long-term data in understanding the pace and pattern of ecological change.

Adapting to Change (BNZ LTER)
Changes in climate and fire regime are already affecting rural Alaskan communities where indigenous people have historically led a subsistence lifestyle as hunters, fishers, and gatherers. Warming has changed the timing of freeze up and melting of rivers and reduced the thickness of river ice and therefore reduced the safety of winter travel and access to some hunting grounds. Increased...
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Browse Control (BNZ LTER)
Studies of the interactions between vegetation processes and mammalian herbivory have been part of BNZ LTER research for over 20 years. We have found that browsing by moose and snowshoe hares controls vegetation development and nutrient cycling at a variety of scales. Mammalian herbivores control species composition, nutrient cycling, and plant population dynamics at the stand and landscape...
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Nutrient Sources (BNZ LTER)
Biogeochemical investigations have a long history at BNZ. These studies have demonstrated how slowly soil organic matter turn over in boreal forest soils, because of low biological activity coupled to a very short growing season. Recently, however, we have learned that nitrogen cycling in boreal forest soils continues past freeze-up and that about 40% of the annual nitrogen flux occurs during...
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Snow and Climate (BNZ LTER)
Modeling simulations over boreal Alaska have documented changes in albedo due to changes in the duration of the snow season and due to changes in the amount of young forest stands on a landscape due to changes in the fire regime. In addition, changes in the exchange of the greenhouse gases CO2 and methane have also been estimated due to changes in climate, atmospheric carbon dioxide...
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Critical Permafrost (BNZ LTER)
At least 1218 Pg (billion tons) of soil carbon (C) are stored in surface permafrost soils in boreal and arctic ecosystems, almost twice as much C than currently contained in the atmosphere (Tarnocai et al. 2009). Latitudinal gradients of soil C storage, field experiments, and laboratory incubations all show that soil C cycling in these northern ecosystems is likely to be strongly influenced by...
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Fire and Climate (BNZ LTER)
Plant ecologists working with the Bonanza Creek LTER program in Alaska have found that fire effects on soil organic layer depths is a key factor in the disruption of stable patterns of conifer dominance in the boreal forest. Plant-soil-microbial (PSM) feedbacks between vascular plants, mosses, and microbial decomposition maintain deep organic soils in black spruce forests and wetlands of Interior...
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